Understanding Overstimulation – How to Moderate your Baby's Environment

Understanding Overstimulation – How to Moderate your Baby's Environment

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Too much stimulation doesn't encourage baby development, quite the opposite. What is overstimulation and how can you avoid it?

What can cause overstimulation?

  • Overstimulation is a situation in which a child experiences more stimuli (sensations, noises or activities) than she or he are able to handle.
  • When babies experience overstimulation, i.e. sensory “overload”, negative emotions arise, such as anxiety, fear and anger. This can greatly influence babies’ behavior, making them cry inconsolably and even reject the kind of stimulation they normally welcome, like being hugged.  

The effect of overstimulation

The occasional overstimulation has no long-term effect, but constant overstimulation that makes your baby tense can have an impact on physical, cognitive and emotional development.

What causes overstimulation?

  • Exposure to intense stimulation: imposing visual, audio or tactile stimuli that are simply too much for your baby. 
  • Changes: Even just a change in environment or moving your baby from the arms of one person to another can sometimes be too much for your little one.
  • Remember, babies and young children’s sensory regulation is still very immature, and stimulation that seems reasonable to you could be overwhelming for your baby. 

What are the signs of overstimulation in babies?

  • Crying and not managing to let you soothe them.
  • Turning their head away, seeming upset or tired.
  • Falling asleep even though it's not time for a nap.
  • Stretching their bodies, waving arms, kicking, clentching fists.
  • Seeming hungry and wanting to suck, even though it's not time for feeding.

What can you do to soothe an overstimulated baby?

  • If you’re somewhere noisy, try taking your baby to a quiet corner
  • If your baby is upset, talk quietly, and try hugging or rocking them 
  • Make sure your little one’s environment is calm and well-moderated (soft lights, mellow colors, etc.), reducing the number of toys in the playing environment, dimming the lights when necessary. 

How to avoid overstimulation?

  • The best way to find the right level of stimulation is to let your child lead the way and learn to read the signs that they offer to express how they feel.
  • After you’ve made sure your little one isn’t tired or hungry and that their diaper is clean, you can check and see what level of stimulation is best by trying things out. 
  • Watching babies’ reactions can teach you about their preferences. Let your baby play in the baby gym and show her two hanging toys. Check how she reacts. If she signals that she is uncomfortable, remove one toy and see if this has any impact. 
  • If your child isn’t responding to the toys, try adding more toys or using toys that offer audio feedback and see if that agrees with him.
  • Check to see if your child prefers bright colors or a mellow color scheme, loud toys or ones that are quieter. 

Any advice and information provided in this website is given as suggestions only and should not be taken as a professional medical diagnosis or opinion. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent.

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